This lightweight, Italian side-by-side won’t break the bank – but it had no trouble breaking clays. Michael Yardley is impressed
FAIR-made Lincolns have long been respected for offering much bang for the buck. Michael Yardley is delighted to find the new FAIR Iside 20-bore does the same. A pleasure to shoot, it easily breaks clays – without breaking the bank.
For more, read our review of the FAIR Lincoln Vogue 20-bore – a well-made, good shooting gun at an attractive price.
FAIR ISIDE 20-BORE
This month’s test gun is a new 20-bore, round-bar side-by-side from FAIR (Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini, founded in 1971). It is imported into the UK by John Rothery Ltd, which also distributes Lincoln over-and-unders made by FAIR. Lincolns, first specified by David Nickerson (whose firm is now part of John Rothery), have long been respected as offering a lot of ‘bang for the buck’. The new gun, however, is a little different to the FAIR-made Lincolns with which we are acquainted. Although this is a budget gun with an RRP substantially under the £2,000 mark, it is not without real elegance of form and function.
I was surprised when I first picked up the Iside by just how ‘right’ it felt. That is a rare reaction to a less-expensive, machine-made side-by-side. It weighs a modest 5lb 12oz, so it is light, has 30in barrels, a single trigger and multichokes. The longer barrels make it particularly pointable and enhance muzzle control and stability.
There is a straight-hand gripped stock (with an unusually long shelf measurement of 15½in and higher than average comb). The slightly figured butt includes a one-inch wooden butt extension piece that is nearly matched to the grain of the rest of the stock. It is attached by two slotted screws (much better than the Phillips type, which are more common). It would be an easy operation to shorten the length of pull or add a recoil pad (there is 14½in of wood without the end piece).
A Prince of Wales grip might have worked well, too, as a single trigger is present (negating the need for a quick change between trigger blades – the prime advantage of the straight grip). Do not take that as criticism. The straight grip, which is quite square in form, works well here. The comb profile is good, too, and so is the splinter fore-end.
The 3in-chambered, steel shot-proofed barrels of the Iside are demi-bloc, not the monobloc norm. They are equipped with an elegant and well-laid game rib with a shallow concave and a matted top surface. It is one of the best that I have yet seen – both in regard to the shallow concave and general proportions and satin finish. It presents an excellent picture to the eye without distraction. There is a conventional, small metal bead at the muzzles.
The rest of the gun passes muster. The action is bright polished and finished with attractive and well-executed (by laser) tight scroll as well as some less exciting gamebirds (my call on aesthetics would be full coverage scroll or a plain colour case hardened action – a house option on a more basic model). The shape of the action is particularly good. The belly is significantly rounded off and the fences are nicely shaped, if a little plain.
At the price, however, it is hard to fault the little Iside 20 (it is listed in other bore sizes by the maker). It shows just how far CNC production has come. The vast cost of some guns becomes, frankly, harder to justify when something this good can be made this reasonably.
The Rizzini name, meanwhile, is a famous one in Brescian gunmaking circles. There are Rizzinis in a number of manufacturers, some bearing the family name. Batista Rizzini is well known for his mid-market guns, F.lli Rizzini has a reputation as a maker of best guns.
Emilio Rizzini, a firm that once made budget guns, is now part of Fausti (and at least one of the Fausti sisters is married to a Rizzini). To confuse the issue even further, several firms make very similar guns – over-and-unders combining Beretta-style hinging with a Browning-style bolting arrangement. This new FAIR side-by-side is itself one of several of similar type now made in Brescia. It is, however, distinct at this price point.
The monobloc action of the Iside is made from a five-axis, CNC-machined forged billet. It has fixed top and bottom straps, like some over-and-unders. The butt is attached to the action by a stock bolt. On removing the stock from the action, an easy operation, one is struck by the elegant simplicity of the works. Tumblers – powered by coil springs – are hinged on the bottom strap impacting slightly angled-out strikers (allowing for a narrow action body). Sears hang from the top strap.
There is a single selective trigger with the usual inertia block mechanism (as everything is contained by metal one might predict reliability). It looks strong, simple and well engineered. Bolting is traditional with Purdey double lumps sitting in the usual central action recess. There is a detachable cross pin.
FAIR describes the barrels of the Iside as of ‘demi-bloc’ construction. They are not chopper-lump. The tubes rest in recesses on a platform that incorporates the lump and hook – all of which is braised together (something like the old dovetail system). They are presented well with long forcing cones, 15.9mm bores and multichokes of relatively short pattern.
I much enjoyed shooting the Iside and thought it one of the best-performing lightweight side-by-sides I have shot recently. There was nothing wrong with it; at the price, that is notable. The single trigger worked without fault and felt recoil was modest with Lyalvale 21gm and 24gm loads. Pointing and handling were first class with the 30in barrels. The shallow concave rib was excellent.
There is a particular pleasure in shooting a well-sorted lightweight. It might have the generic look of other Gardonne mass-produced guns but the Iside is a little bit special. FAIR lists deluxe and side-plated versions, too, that I would be interested to try. The Iside offers excellent value and would not disgrace itself in any company as far as performance and handling are concerned.
FAIR ISIDE 20-BORE
♦ RRP: £1,599
♦ Imported by John Rothery Ltd; the test gun was supplied by: Chapman Airsports, Unit 5, Livelands, 121 London Road, Marks Tey, Essex CO6 1EB
♦ 01206 863537